6 things to know before moving to Singapore

6 things you need to think of before moving to Singapore

There are a few things you need to know before moving to a new country. I know this is an exciting and busy time.  Take it from an experience traveller and seasoned expatriate you need to understand local culture, customs and laws. These six areas are necessary to understand before your move to Singapore.


Knowing how to ask for a price or where is the bathroom is fundamentally important. Understanding the answer is even more so. Don’t expect everywhere you visit in Singapore for people to understand or speak English. Malay is the National language in Singapore, however English is used in the financial and business centres. Make sure you bring a Malay translation guide or ‘Singlish’ dictionary. ‘Singlish’ is a hybrid of English, Malay and Chinese.

Local Laws

Singapore has very strict drug laws, do not bring any drugs into the country, you may face the death penalty if caught. A law you may not expect is that Chewing gum is not illegal in Singapore, however, it is only for therapeutic purposes and is illegal to sell for any other reasons. You may bring a supply with you just don’t forget to dispose of in in the bin to avoid a hefty littering fine.

Local Customs

If you are eating in a hawker centre (Markets) people may ask to share a table with you if it is crowded. If you see packet of tissues on a restraint or café table it means the seat is reserved by someone queuing for their food.  People may use other items such as scarves or half empty drinks to mark their spot. You will often see elderly people selling packs of tissues at a mark-up. Purchase these, they are a way for elderly and disable people to support themselves. The tissues provide a meagre income for those impoverished people in a place with few state benefits. The last important custom I will discuss is the use of Can and cannot. These words roughly translate to yes and no in Singapore. Understanding locals can be confusing if you don’t understand this little fact.


Rent is very high in Singapore in comparison to Australia. It is very important to keep in mind your budget, preferred location and facilities. Apartment complexes and high rises are where the majority of people rent. However, if you have a large budget $18,000+ a month you can rent a private bungalow in a central location.


Buying a car is the second highest expense in Singapore after housing. Even second hand cars are very expensive.  Be aware Singapore uses electronic road pricing to manage congestions and it needs to be factored in to your budget if you choose to drive. If you do drive in Singapore remember to convert your licence within the first 12 months. If public transport is your preferred option (It is certainly the cheaper option) buy a EZlink card.


International students, children of expatriates in other terms who wish to enter the public-school system must undertake the Admissions Exercise for International Students (AEIS). The AEIS is an English and mathematics test, a high score does not guarantee entry as places are strictly limited for internationals. There is no AEIS for first year primary school students, entry is based only on availability. Private schools are an option for students unable to gain a place in a public school.

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